Friday, May 4, 2012

A conductor looks at Sinatra

Since Frank Sinatra's singing is the driving force in "Come Fly Away," let's get another look at Sinatra the musician from Christopher Warren-Green -- yes, the leader of the Charlotte Symphony. 

"If he had been a conductor, he'd have been one of the best," Warren-Green said. 

That wasn't just talk. Warren-Green watched Sinatra in action. 

As a young freelancer in 1970s London, before he went into conducting, Warren-Green played the violin in the orchestra at the Palladium -- the theater that showcased generations of show-business greats. Of all the big names who came during Warren-Green's time, "Sinatra was the one one you could learn from," he told me in a 2010 interview. Sinatra's most conspicuous qualities: 

"His tremendous charisma and his professionalism. And most importantly, his musicianship." When Sinatra sang, Warren-Green said, "the way he turned phrases was spectacular." But Sinatra was more than a singer. 

Even though he brought along a music director -- Don Costa, who made some of the arrangements heard in "Come Fly Away" -- Sinatra led the rehearsals,  Warren-Green said.  

"He had slight body movements he'd direct at the orchestra -- very slight gestures. But they had a powerful impact," Warren-Green said. With Costa mainly observing from out in the theater, Sinatra even handled housekeeping chores like giving out the order of musical numbers in the show. 

"He came across as very humble," Warren-Green said. "He was different when he was performing. But in rehearsal with the musicians, he was like just another musician rehearsing in a professional way." 

(Photo of Sinatra in 1979: Associated Press)